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Straight Wobblings of My Father. (poetry reviews).

Straight Wobblings of My Father
by Fred Lee Hord
Third World Press, February 2001, $9.00
ISBN 0-883-78225-1

The most obvious influence in the Straight Wobblings of My Father is Africa and black nationalism, surprising indeed given the title of this collection. In "Avery," one of the poems in Straight Wobblings, the imprint of black nationalism is reflected in the language and lyricism.

Hord encourages the reader to contemplate the breadth and meaning of Africa and African people and their power in the modern world.

While Straight Wobblings is an overwhelmingly political construct, the poet carefully balances that heavy-handedness with the intimacy of his own personal thoughts. Hord's meditative and reflective approach reveals that he has devoted considerable time to thinking about Africa, while constantly exploring its meanings in his own life.

The book has two sections: "Africa on My Mind" and "The Rhythms of Home."

The first is a reference to Countee Cullen's Heritage, a poem that begins, "What is Africa to me, copper sun or scarlet sea...."

A much-anthologized poem, Heritage poses important questions about the origin and ideas of African people in America, and their relationship to where they came from.

Hord continues an exploration of these pivotal questions. He succeeds in drawing attention to how much confusion still exist between people of African descent in America, and their homeland.

The poet engages many subjects in Straight Wobbling. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, devotion to the American flag, the black bourgeoisie among other curiosities.

Hord then turns his attention to black community and family relationships, engaging these subjects in works such as "Taking Whippings for Each Other," as well as the memory of segregation.

Though Straight Wobblings has a strong forceful tone, it is often a quiet and lonely voice that puts forth the questions and makes the declarations, a careful voice that will not venture into rhetoric or beyond the personal.

"The Rhythms of Home" brings this aspect of the poetry more clearly into focus, as Hord pays tribute to family in his depictions of interaction with his own family.

In "To a Black Father at Fifty," the poet writes: "I am beginning to understand / how birthdays leave crumbs with smiles."

By looking at the experience of fatherhood, the poet gains an appreciation and perspective on many of the simple things in life and embraces an image of Africa that is on a personal scale.

Hord paces himself between the gigantic and the small, the philosophical and the practical, Africa and his home here.

Though the lines at times appear to be flat and the music of the poetry sometimes seems distant, the awkwardness can be attributed to the difficulties posed by the meditative form.

Yet one can still be certain after reading The Straight Wobblings of My Father that the question of Africa, for Africans in America, is as vast and worthy of study as the continent is in size.

--Hoke Glover is a graduate of the University of Maryland M.F.A. program and a poet.
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Author:Glover, Hoke
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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